2015: Year of war and peace in Nagaland

Kohima, Dec 19 (IANS) The year coming to a close was one of war and peace in Nagaland.

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government signed a historic peace pact with the most powerful of the Naga underground outfits, another set of Naga guerrillas massacred 20 Indian soldiers in Manipur.

The year 2015 was then a year when two sets of ideas were in the race for supremacy in the Christian-majority state: a desire to end the country’s mother of all insurgencies or to keep it going.

The Naga Peace Accord was signed on August 3 between the government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) which is led by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah. It followed 17 years of peace talks.

The development sent a message to all other factions of the Naga underground that New Delhi would only negotiate with the NSCN-IM and that the only choice the other five factions of the NSCN had was to embrace the accord or be eliminated militarily.

The NSCN-K led by S.S. Khaplang, which had abrogated the 14-year-old truce on March 27, responded by killing eight Assam Rifles troopers in Mon district of Nagaland.

And with bases in Myanmar, it ambushed a Dogra Regiment unit in Chandel district of neighbouring Manipur, killing 20 soldiers.

A furious government announced a bounty of Rs.17 lakh on information leading to the capture of Khaplang and its military wing chief Niki Sumi.

In the meantime, a new faction of the NSCN — NSCN-Reformation — was born. It followed the expulsion of P. Tikhak and Wangtin Naga, formerly senior leaders of the NSCN-K.

The NSCN-Reformation is the only faction to support the Naga accord. The others – NSCN-Unification, NSCN-Khole Kitovi and NSCN-K – remain wedded to violence.

Nagaland witnessed trouble on February 5 after a mob of 5,000 stormed the Dimapur Central Jail, dragged out a 35-year-old alleged Bangladeshi accused of raping a Naga woman, dragged him for over seven kilometres, and lynched him.

Houses and shops belonging to Bangladeshi immigrants also came under attack. The case was handed over to the CBI. More than anything, it showed the Naga distate for “outsiders”, particularly Bangladeshis.

Also in February, nine Congress legislators voted in favour of Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which counts the BJP as an ally. The move left the assembly with no opposition.

The central government also recognised the role of Rani Gaidilu, a freedom fighter who played a significant role during the independence era.

Nagaland was back in news in September as its lone Rajya Sabha member, Khekiho Zhimomi, who died on November 26, outspokenly suggested the creation of two union territories in Manipur, adding to the already simmering tensions on the issue of Greater Nagaland. The MP apologised.

As the year was set to end, Chief Minister Zeliang got into trouble. A district court told him to appear before it on January 17, 2016, on charges of allegedly faking his graduation degree.

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